Re-engaging with Gratitude

I went out to a café with some colleagues. Now, that might not have sounded thrilling a year and a half ago, but we have been stuck inside with our pod-mates for ages, and well, no one is THAT nice, let’s face it. Now that many restrictions have been lifted, I took advantage of the balmy weather to hold a meeting in a serene, breezy and scenic café at the botanical gardens. Let me tell you, it was as if I had just been released from prison.

The air never smelled sweeter and the food never tasted better. The flowers were the most vibrant colors imaginable. I had a sense of absolute bliss, as if I had just discovered my senses for the first time. I just could not stop smiling. Do you know what happens in your brain when you feel like this? All kinds of wonderful things. Your brain releases feel-good hormones, like adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These hormones help calm your sympathetic nervous system, so you digest better, sleep better, feel less pain and generally feel more energetic.

How, then, you might be wondering, can we feel this more often? I personally would like to believe that this process is completely within my control. It was nice that it happened spontaneously, that I was thrown into a moment of deep appreciation following more than a year of deprivation. But it seems to me that if it can happen spontaneously, then I can recreate it. Maybe I don’t need the deprivation in order to access the appreciation. Maybe I can simply decide to be more grateful more of the time.

Granted, it’s easier to experience gratitude and joy in a lovely café with friends than say, sitting in rush-hour traffic or lying in bed during a flare. However, if we can learn to harness even a fraction of the elation I’m describing, we will still get a good jolt of happy brain chemicals as a reward.

So, let’s try it. As we emerge from hibernation this summer, let’s all try to feel a little extra gratitude. Let’s appreciate one another just a little more. Let’s hug for an extra few seconds and see how good it feels. Every positive thought, experience and emotion we process translates into better health, healing and happiness.

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